Holiday entertaining, no matter how small a party, can be time consuming and make the polished of hosts a bit frazzled. Knowing that the holiday season is a busy time already, plan accordingly so you aren't creating more work for yourself than necessary. Here are a few tips that may help...
When asked if guests can bring something, say "yes" (for once!) and ask them to bring something specific, like an appetizer tray, bottle of red wine, or a dessert. Those little extras will really cut down on the chaos when the date draws nearer.
If you have small guests (I mean children, not short friends!), either have some toys placed out for them or give them little jobs like, folding napkins, collecting coats, and/or setting the table. For a little older children, you can print out a drink option list and have them ask the guests what they would like to drink.
While preparing your meal, wear an apron so if you spill you won't have to waste time finding a new outfit. There are some really stylish patterns out there. Try one that is festive for the season.
Take short cuts with dinner...pre-chop for the dishes that can only be prepared at the last minute. Better yet, serve only food that can be prepared ahead of time. Finally, buy the pie and gravy rather than make it from scratch. Nobody minds...they are just there to enjoy your company for the holidays, not to critique your culinary prowess.
Finally, accept the help when your guests offer to clean (they wouldn't offer if they didn't want to help). Or, better yet, hire a neighbor kid to help out - you can enjoy your guests more if your not stuck in your kitchen. Have clean sponges, washcloths, dishtowels ready to go. Have a empty dishwasher for a quick clean-up.
Cut as many corners as you can to enjoy your guests...this is the holiday season and you should be getting a sense of pleasure from your holiday entertaining, not gray hairs!